Voice
The power of ping-pong diplomacy
By Editorial  ·  2021-04-06  ·   Source: NO.14 APRIL 8, 2021

Fifty years ago, when the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the United States had not yet established diplomatic relations but were keen to do so, a tiny table tennis ball created the first friendly people-to-people link since the founding of the PRC in 1949.

American players, along with officials and journalists, arrived in China in April 1971 to take part in exhibition matches, opening the door to friendly exchanges between the two major powers in the eastern and western hemispheres. 

It also paved the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972, followed by the establishment of formal diplomatic ties between the PRC and the United States seven years later.

Since then, frequent trade, culture, education and people-to-people exchanges have forged a community across the Pacific that has shared win-win cooperation and mutual benefits.

Occasional friction is inevitable when two countries have different systems, values and histories. But what is more important is to seek common ground while reserving or respecting differences to conduct state-to-state relations. If there is harmony and coexistence of two different frequencies, it will contribute to the development of global civilizations and human welfare.

However, the United States began to regard China's rise on the global stage as a challenge. Unfounded accusations and efforts to suppress China and maintain U.S. hegemony have strained China-U.S. relations and the 50-year relationship is now going through a dark phase.

It's therefore a good time to recall the spirit of ping-pong diplomacy once again.

An important achievement of the ping-pong diplomacy is that it created a successful model of promoting exchanges and reconciliation between nations through friendship between their people. Despite some deterioration, the China-U.S. relationship is still much better than what it was five decades ago, and their citizens are better placed today to be friends.

Though a handful of U.S. politicians have been clamoring for the decoupling of the two economies, the vast majority of Chinese and Americans do not agree with them. It is also not feasible in today's age of globalization, when all economies are deeply intertwined.

The wheel of history cannot be reversed. China and the U.S. need to be on board again.

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